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Unification minister: Rumors about N.K. leader showed impact of 'fake news'

North Korea 15:44 May 07, 2020

By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, May 7 (Yonhap) -- The recent brouhaha surrounding the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un showed how "fake news" can affect the economy, such as stock and financial markets, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Thursday.

Speculative reports about Kim's health spread wildly after he failed to show up at a key national event last month. CNN reported Kim could be in "grave danger after surgery" while some other media outlets went as far as saying that he was believed to be in a coma or already dead.

South Korean officials, including the unification minister, repeatedly rejected such rumors as fake news, but speculation persisted until Kim appeared in public last week, smiling broadly and showing no signs of illness.

"We've witnessed the effect fake news has on the stock and financial markets," the minister said during a press briefing.

"When analyzing intelligence, we cannot but take into consideration the effect it can have on the political situation and how it can actually affect the economy. What's more important is to take responsibility in handling intelligence," he said.

The minister emphasized that the capacity to analyze intelligence from context is more important than the intelligence itself.

"Discovering any differences with the past and deciding how to interpret intelligence depending on the context is not related to a technical aspect but is related to the integrated ability to categorize, evaluate and assess information as a whole."

Kim again stressed that the South Korean government has "intelligence capacity" in collecting information on North Korea, such as satellites, signals intelligence (SIGINT) and human intelligence (HUMINT).

Kim's reappearance underlined the difficulty in figuring out affairs in the communist nation, especially with regard to its leadership, and how easy it is for the outside world to slip into far-fetched speculation in the absence of clear information.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) smiles during a visit to a newly built fertilizer factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on May 1, 2020, in this photo released the next day by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency. Kim made his first public appearance after a 20-day absence that sparked rumors about his health. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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